Institute for Biomedical Research  “Alberto Sols“
Recent publications
Oxidative DNA damage is recognized by 8-oxoguanine (8-oxoG) DNA glycosylase 1 (OGG1), which excises 8-oxoG, leaving a substrate for apurinic endonuclease 1 (APE1) and initiating repair. Here, we describe a small molecule (TH10785) that interacts with the phenylalanine-319 and glycine-42 amino acids of OGG1, increases the enzyme activity 10-fold, and generates a previously undescribed β,δ-lyase enzymatic function. TH10785 controls the catalytic activity mediated by a nitrogen base within its molecular structure. In cells, TH10785 increases OGG1 recruitment to and repair of oxidative DNA damage. This alters the repair process, which no longer requires APE1 but instead is dependent on polynucleotide kinase phosphatase (PNKP1) activity. The increased repair of oxidative DNA lesions with a small molecule may have therapeutic applications in various diseases and aging.
Activation of oval cells (OCs) has been related to hepatocyte injury during chronic liver diseases including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). However, OCs plasticity can be affected under pathological environments. We previously found protection against hepatocyte cell death by inhibiting protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B). Herein, we investigated the molecular and cellular processes involved in the lipotoxic susceptibility in OCs expressing or not PTP1B. Palmitic acid (PA) induced apoptotic cell death in wild-type (Ptpn1+/+) OCs in parallel to oxidative stress and impaired autophagy. This lipotoxic effect was attenuated in OCs lacking Ptpn1 that showed upregulated antioxidant defences, increased unfolded protein response (UPR) signaling, higher endoplasmic reticulum (ER) content and elevated stearoyl CoA desaturase (Scd1) expression and activity. These effects in Ptpn1−/− OCs concurred with an active autophagy, higher mitochondrial efficiency and a molecular signature of starvation, favoring lipid droplet (LD) formation and dynamics. Autophagy blockade in Ptpn1−/− OCs reduced Scd1 expression, mitochondrial fitness, LD formation and restored lipoapoptosis, an effect also recapitulated by Scd1 silencing. PTP1B immunostaining was detected in OCs from mouse liver and, importantly, LDs were found in OCs from Ptpn1−/− mice with NAFLD. In conclusion, we demonstrated that Ptpn1 deficiency restrains lipoapoptosis in OCs through a metabolic rewiring towards a “starvation-like” fate, favoring autophagy, mitochondrial fitness and LD formation. Dynamic LD-lysosomal interations likely ensure lipid recycling and, overall, these adaptations protect against lipotoxicity. The identification of LDs in OCs from Ptpn1−/− mice with NAFLD opens therapeutic perspectives to ensure OC viability and plasticity under lipotoxic liver damage.
Molecular gene signatures are useful tools to characterize the physiological state of cell populations, but most have developed under a narrow range of conditions and cell types and are often restricted to a set of gene identities. Focusing on the transcriptional response to hypoxia, we aimed to generate widely applicable classifiers sourced from the results of a meta-analysis of 69 differential expression datasets which included 425 individual RNA-seq experiments from 33 different human cell types exposed to different degrees of hypoxia (0.1–5% $$\hbox {O}_{2}$$ O 2 ) for 2–48 h. The resulting decision trees include both gene identities and quantitative boundaries, allowing for easy classification of individual samples without control or normoxic reference. Each tree is composed of 3–5 genes mostly drawn from a small set of just 8 genes (EGLN1, MIR210HG, NDRG1, ANKRD37, TCAF2, PFKFB3, BHLHE40, and MAFF). In spite of their simplicity, these classifiers achieve over 95% accuracy in cross validation and over 80% accuracy when applied to additional challenging datasets. Our results indicate that the classifiers are able to identify hypoxic tumor samples from bulk RNAseq and hypoxic regions within tumor from spatially resolved transcriptomics datasets. Moreover, application of the classifiers to histological sections from normal tissues suggest the presence of a hypoxic gene expression pattern in the kidney cortex not observed in other normoxic organs. Finally, tree classifiers described herein outperform traditional hypoxic gene signatures when compared against a wide range of datasets. This work describes a set of hypoxic gene signatures, structured as simple decision tress, that identify hypoxic samples and regions with high accuracy and can be applied to a broad variety of gene expression datasets and formats.
Lung cancer is one of the main causes of death in developed countries, and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most frequent type (80% of patients). In advanced NSCLC, platinum-based chemotherapy is the frontline palliative treatment, but less than 5% of patients achieve prolonged survival. Immunotherapy has recently been proposed as the standard of care (SoC) as either monotherapy or in combination with chemotherapy for advanced NSCLC. The levels of expression of PD-L1 are the only predictive biomarkers for patient assessment. Although around 30% of patients receiving immunotherapy achieve 5-year survival, a significant number does not benefit from this novel therapeutic approach. Therefore, there is a need for novel strategies to improve clinical outcomes. The expression level of choline kinase α (ChoKα) is increased in a large number of human tumors, including NSCLC tumors, and constitutes an independent prognostic factor for early-stage NSCLC patients. Thus, ChoKα has been postulated as a new target drug in cancer therapy. The combination of cisplatin with novel targeted drugs such as choline kinase inhibitors may improve both the survival rates and the quality of life of NSCLC patients and may serve as the basis for the development of new therapeutic approaches. To that aim, we developed several in vitro and in vivo approaches to assess the antitumor activity of a novel combination regimen using cisplatin and ChoKα inhibitors. Our results suggest that a proper combination of specific inhibitors of the NSCLC prognostic factor ChoKα and platinum-based conventional chemotherapy might constitute a new, efficient treatment approach for NSCLC patients. This novel approach may help reduce the toxicity profile associated with cisplatin since, despite the advances in NSCLC management in recent years, the overall 5-year survival rate is still poor.
Background Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the commonest cause of chronic liver disease worldwide, being non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) its most clinically relevant form. Given the risks associated with taking a liver biopsy, the design of accurate non-invasive methods to identify NASH patients is of upmost importance. BMP2 plays a key role in metabolic homeostasis; however, little is known about its involvement in NAFLD onset and progression. This study aimed to elucidate the impact of BMP2 in NAFLD pathophysiology. Methods Hepatic and circulating levels of BMP2 were quantified in serum and liver specimens from 115 biopsy-proven NAFLD patients and 75 subjects with histologically normal liver (NL). In addition, BMP2 content and release was determined in cultured human hepatocytes upon palmitic acid (PA) overload. Results We found that BMP2 expression was abnormally increased in livers from NAFLD patients than in subjects with NL and this was reflected in higher serum BMP2 levels. Notably, we observed that PA upregulated BMP2 expression and secretion by human hepatocytes. An algorithm based on serum BMP2 levels and clinically relevant variables to NAFLD showed an AUROC of 0.886 (95%CI, 0.83–0.94) to discriminate NASH. We used this algorithm to develop SAN (Screening Algorithm for NASH): a SAN < 0.2 implied a low risk and a SAN ≥ 0.6 indicated high risk of NASH diagnosis. Conclusion This proof-of-concept study shows BMP2 as a new molecular target linked to NAFLD and introduces SAN as a simple and efficient algorithm to screen individuals at risk for NASH.
Current therapy against colorectal cancer (CRC) is based on DNA-damaging agents that remain ineffective in a proportion of patients. Whether and how non-curative DNA damage-based treatment affects tumor cell behavior and patient outcome is primarily unstudied. Using CRC patient-derived organoids (PDO)s, we show that sublethal doses of chemotherapy (CT) does not select previously resistant tumor populations but induces a quiescent state specifically to TP53 wildtype (WT) cancer cells, which is linked to the acquisition of a YAP1-dependent fetal phenotype. Cells displaying this phenotype exhibit high tumor-initiating and metastatic activity. Nuclear YAP1 and fetal traits are present in a proportion of tumors at diagnosis and predict poor prognosis in patients carrying TP53 WT CRC tumors. We provide data indicating the higher efficacy of CT together with YAP1 inhibitors for eradication of therapy resistant TP53 WT cancer cells. Together these results identify fetal conversion as a useful biomarker for patient prognosis and therapy prescription.
Lysyl oxidase-like 2 (LOXL2) and 3 (LOXL3) are members of the lysyl oxidase family of enzymes involved in the maturation of the extracellular matrix. Both enzymes share a highly conserved catalytic domain, but it is unclear whether they perform redundant functions in vivo. In this study, we show that mice lacking Loxl3 exhibit perinatal lethality and abnormal skeletal development. Additionally, analysis of the genotype of embryos carrying double knockout of Loxl2 and Loxl3 genes suggests that both enzymes have overlapping functions during mouse development. Furthermore, we also show that ubiquitous expression of Loxl2 suppresses the lethality associated with Loxl3 knockout mice.
Second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs), in particular, olanzapine and clozapine, have been associated with the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D) and metabolic syndrome in individuals with schizophrenia. In this context, beta cell dysfunction is a plausible mechanism by which SGAs cause T2D. Herein, we analyzed the direct effects of olanzapine, a commonly prescribed SGA with diabetogenic properties, on the INS-1 (821/13) beta cell line and isolated pancreatic islets. Treatment of INS-1 beta cells with non-toxic concentrations of olanzapine (3–6 μM) during 4 h activated endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-mediated signaling by increasing PERK/eIF2α phosphorylation, IRE-1 phosphorylation and XBP-1 splicing. Moreover, glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) was inhibited when olanzapine was present for 16 h. The insulin secretory function of INS-1 cells was restored by inhibiting olanzapine-induced ER stress with tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA). Similar effects of olanzapine with or without TUDCA on ER-stress-mediated signaling and GSIS were found in pancreatic islets from female mice. Our results indicate that early activation of ER stress in pancreatic beta cells is a potential mechanism behind the alterations in glucose homeostasis induced by olanzapine.
Adverse ventricular remodeling is the heart’s response to damaging stimuli and is linked to heart failure and poor prognosis. Formyl-indolo [3,2-b] carbazole (FICZ) is an endogenous ligand for the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), through which it exerts pleiotropic effects including protection against inflammation, fibrosis, and oxidative stress. We evaluated the effect of AhR activation by FICZ on the adverse ventricular remodeling that occurs in the early phase of pressure overload in the murine heart induced by transverse aortic constriction (TAC). Cardiac structure and function were evaluated by cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMRI) before and 3 days after Sham or TAC surgery in mice treated with FICZ or with vehicle, and cardiac tissue was used for biochemical studies. CMRI analysis revealed that FICZ improved cardiac function and attenuated cardiac hypertrophy. These beneficial effects involved the inhibition of the hypertrophic calcineurin/NFAT pathway, transcriptional reduction in pro-fibrotic genes, and antioxidant effects mediated by the NRF2/NQO1 pathway. Overall, our findings provide new insight into the role of cardiac AhR signaling in the injured heart.
Thyroid cancer is the most common primary endocrine malignancy in adults and its incidence is rapidly increasing. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), generally defined as RNA molecules longer than 200 nucleotides with no protein-encoding capacity, are highly tissue-specific molecules that serve important roles in gene regulation through a variety of different mechanisms, including acting as competing endogenous RNAs (ceRNAs) that ‘sponge’ microRNAs (miRNAs). In the present study, using an integrated approach through RNA-sequencing of paired thyroid tumor and non-tumor samples, we have identified an interactome network between lncRNAs and miRNAs and examined the functional consequences in vitro and in vivo of one of such interactions. We have identified a likely operative post-transcriptional regulatory network in which the downregulated lncRNA, SPTY2D1-AS1, is predicted to target the most abundant and upregulated miRNAs in thyroid cancer, particularly miR-221, a well-known oncomiRNA in cancer. Indeed, SPTY2D1-AS1 functions as a potent tumor suppressor in vitro and in vivo, it is downregulated in the most advanced stages of human thyroid cancer, and it seems to block the processing of the primary form of miR-221. Overall, our results link SPTY2D1-AS1 to thyroid cancer progression and highlight the potential use of this lncRNA as a therapeutic target of thyroid cancer.
Detection of stress biomarkers molecules, non-invasively, through (non-induced) sweat sampling is an important research field since sweat is a potential diagnostic fluid for early and continuous human health monitoring, not only for stress-related conditions directly but also for other pathologies (e.g., associated with chronic diseases). The simultaneous detection of multiple potential biomarkers in sweat samples, using simple and low-cost electrochemical methods (detecting patterns or “electrochemical fingerprints”) requiring no sample preparation and its correlation with physiological conditions, is an attractive methodology but not readily achievable. Several of these potential biomarkers’ electrochemical response presents very close oxidation potentials, among other factors that hamper the detection, such as pH dependence of the electrochemical response or partial adsorption on electrode surfaces. Disposable screen-printed electrode materials, with relatively low-cost, could be useful to overcome the difficulties. A set of selected potential stress-related (non-protein) biomarkers (tyrosine, phenylalanine, dopamine, serotonin, and hydrocortisone) was used in the current study for qualitative electrochemical detection on different screen-printed carbon-based electrodes. The detection was attained in simulated sweat solutions and real sweat samples. The goal was to evaluate the electrochemical response on the different surfaces and determine the most suitable carbon-based screen-printed electrodes that may be used in future sensing devices. Graphical Abstract
The synthesis of 20 arylidenecamphors and 15 pyrimidines with camphane skeleton is described in the current report. A modified method for preparation of sterically hindered 2‐aminopyrimidines in two steps was demonstrated. The evaluation of their in vitro activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv showed different MIC values (up to 0.91 μM for ketone 39). Compound 35 demonstrated moderate (8.23 μM), but sustainable activity toward a collection of drug‐resistant M. tuberculosis strains. Many of the compounds (especially among 2‐aminopyridines 42–56) exhibited good to excellent activity against different strains of pathogenic bacteria and fungi (MIC up to 0.60 μM for compound 50), compared with reference antibiotics. Many of the newly designed compounds possess also in vitro cytotoxicity. Synthetic derivatives of natural products can serve as short cut to new efficient drugs with antibacterial activity. In this study we present series of new synthetic arylidene camphors and aryl 2‐aminopyrimidnes, bearing a wide spectrum of in vitro antibacterial activity. Many compounds demonstrated remarkable activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (including drug resistant strains), fungi and methicillin‐resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Specialized proresolving mediators and, in particular, 5(S), (6)R, 7-trihydroxyheptanoic acid methyl ester (BML-111) emerge as new therapeutic tools to prevent cardiac dysfunction and deleterious cardiac damage associated with myocarditis progression. The cardioprotective role of BML-111 is mainly caused by the prevention of increased oxidative stress and nuclear factor erythroid-derived 2-like 2 (NRF2) down-regulation induced by myocarditis. At the molecular level, BML-111 activates NRF2 signaling, which prevents sarcoplasmic reticulum–adenosine triphosphatase 2A down-regulation and Ca²⁺ mishandling, and attenuates the cardiac dysfunction and tissue damage induced by myocarditis.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer‐related death worldwide. Alterations in proteins of the p53family are a common event in CRC. ΔNp73, a p53‐family member, shows oncogenic properties and its effectors are largely unknown. We performed an in‐depth proteomics characterization of transcriptional control by ∆Np73 of the secretome of human colon cancer cells and validated its clinical potential. The secretome was analyzed using high‐density antibody microarrays and stable isotopic metabolic labeling (SILAC). Validation was performed by semiquantitative PCR, ELISA, dot‐blot and westen blot analysis. Evaluation of selected effectors was carried out using 60 plasma samples from CRC patients, individuals carrying premalignant colorectal lesions and colonoscopy‐negative controls. In total, 51 dysregulated proteins were observed showing at least 1.5‐foldchange in expression. We found an important association between the overexpression of ∆Np73 and effectors related to lymphangiogenesis, vasculogenesis and metastasis, such as brain‐derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and the putative aminoacyl tRNA synthase complex‐interacting multifunctional protein 1 (EMAP‐II)–vascular endothelial growth factor C (VEGFC)–vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3 (VEGFR3) axis. We further demonstrated the usefulness of BDNF as a potential CRC biomarker able to discriminate between CRC patients and premalignant individuals from controls with high sensitivity and specificity.
Aims : The study of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the population is a crucial step to overcome the COVID- 19. Seroepidemiological studies would allow to estimate the number of people who have been exposed to the virus, as well as to estimate the number of people who are still susceptible to infection. Methods : A total of 13.560 people from Arganda del Rey, Madrid (Spain), were assessed between January and March 2021 for the presence of IgG antibodies using rapid tests and history of symptoms compatible with COVID-19. Results : We found that 24,2% of the participants had IgG antibodies and 9% a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Loss of smell/taste was the most discriminative symptom of the disease. Main transmitters of infection were mostly household member. Unexpectedly, in smokers, the incidence of positive COVID-19 diagnosis was significantly lower. Also, it was found that there was a discrepancy between the diagnosed cases and presence of IgG antibodies and between those that showed antibodies and COVID-19 diagnosis. Conclusions : Rapid anti-IgG test are less reliable to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection at an individual level but are functional to estimate SARS-CoV-2 infection rate at an epidemiological level. Also, the loss of smell/test is a potential indicator to estimate COVID-19 infection.
The modulation of the host's metabolism to protect tissue from damage induces tolerance to infections increasing survival. Here, we examined the role of the thyroid hormones, key metabolic regulators, in the outcome of malaria. Hypothyroidism confers protection to experimental cerebral malaria by a disease tolerance mechanism. Hypothyroid mice display increased survival after infection with Plasmodium berghei ANKA, diminishing intracranial pressure and brain damage, without altering pathogen burden, blood-brain barrier disruption, or immune cell infiltration. This protection is reversed by treatment with a Sirtuin 1 inhibitor, while treatment of euthyroid mice with a Sirtuin 1 activator induces tolerance and reduces intracranial pressure and lethality. This indicates that thyroid hormones and Sirtuin 1 are previously unknown targets for cerebral malaria treatment, a major killer of children in endemic malaria areas.
Vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) proliferation is essential for arteriogenesis to restore blood flow after artery occlusion, but the mechanisms underlying this response remain unclear. Based on our previous findings showing increased VSMC proliferation in the neonatal aorta of mice lacking the protease MT4-MMP, we aimed at discovering new players in this process. We demonstrate that MT4-MMP absence boosted VSMC proliferation in vitro in response to PDGF-BB in a cell-autonomous manner through enhanced p38 MAPK activity. Increased phospho-p38 in basal MT4-MMP-null VSMCs augmented the rate of mitochondrial degradation by promoting mitochondrial morphological changes through the co-activator PGC1α as demonstrated in PGC1α−/− VSMCs. We tested the in vivo implications of this pathway in a novel conditional mouse line for selective MT4-MMP deletion in VSMCs and in mice pre-treated with the p38 MAPK activator anisomycin. Priming of p38 MAPK activity in vivo by the absence of the protease MT4-MMP or by anisomycin treatment led to enhanced arteriogenesis and improved flow recovery after femoral artery occlusion. These findings may open new therapeutic opportunities for peripheral vascular diseases.
The quantification of mitochondrial respiratory chain (MRC) enzymatic activities is essential for diagnosis of a wide range of mitochondrial diseases, ranging from inherited defects to secondary dysfunctions. MRC lesion is frequently linked to extended cell damage through the generation of proton leak or oxidative stress, threatening organ viability and patient health. However, the intrinsic challenge of a methodological setup and the high variability in measuring MRC enzymatic activities represents a major obstacle for comparative analysis amongst institutions. To improve experimental and statistical robustness, seven Spanish centers with extensive experience in mitochondrial research and diagnosis joined to standardize common protocols for spectrophotometric MRC enzymatic measurements using minimum amounts of sample. Herein, we present the detailed protocols, reference ranges, tips and troubleshooting methods for experimental and analytical setups in different sample preparations and tissues that will allow an international standardization of common protocols for the diagnosis of MRC defects. Methodological standardization is a crucial step to obtain comparable reference ranges and international standards for laboratory assays to set the path for further diagnosis and research in the field of mitochondrial diseases.
Chondrocytes in osteoarthritic (OA) cartilage acquire a hypertrophic‐like phenotype, where Hedgehog (Hh) signaling is pivotal. Hh overexpression causes OA‐like cartilage lesions, whereas its downregulation prevents articular destruction in mouse models. Mutations in EVC and EVC2 genes disrupt Hh signaling, and are responsible for the Ellis‐van Creveld syndrome skeletal dysplasia. Since Ellis‐van Creveld syndrome protein (Evc) deletion is expected to hamper Hh target gene expression we hypothesized that it would also prevent OA progression avoiding chondrocyte hypertrophy. Our aim was to study Evc as a new therapeutic target in OA, and whether Evc deletion restrains chondrocyte hypertrophy and prevents joint damage in an Evc tamoxifen induced knockout (EvccKO) model of OA. For this purpose, OA was induced by surgical knee destabilization in wild‐type (WT) and EvccKO adult mice, and healthy WT mice were used as controls (n = 10 knees/group). Hypertrophic markers and Hh genes were measured by qRT‐PCR, and metalloproteinases (MMP) levels assessed by western blot. Human OA chondrocytes and cartilage samples were obtained from patients undergoing knee joint replacement surgery. Cyclopamine (CPA) was used for Hh pharmacological inhibition and IL‐1 beta as an inflammatory insult. Our results showed that tamoxifen induced inactivation of Evc inhibited Hh overexpression and partially prevented chondrocyte hypertrophy during OA, although it did not ameliorate cartilage damage in DMM‐EvccKO mice. Hh pathway inhibition did not modify the expression of proinflammatory mediators induced by IL‐1 beta in human OA chondrocytes in culture. We found that hypertrophic—IHH—and inflammatory—COX‐2—markers co‐localized in OA cartilage samples. We concluded that tamoxifen induced inactivation of Evc partially prevented chondrocyte hypertrophy in DMM‐EvccKO mice, but it did not ameliorate cartilage damage. Overall, our results suggest that chondrocyte hypertrophy per se is not a pathogenic event in the progression of OA.
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154 members
Carmen Valenzuela
  • Department of Experimental Models of Human Disease
Jorge Martin-Perez
  • Department of Cancer Biology
Isabel Varela-Nieto
  • Department of Pathophysiology Endocrine and Nervous System
Guillermo de Cárcer
  • Department of Cancer Biology
c/ Arturo Duperier 4, E-28029, Madrid, Spain
Head of institution
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas